top of page

6 Fun Ways to Research Before Writing a Historical Novel - Explained by a Professional Book Editor

Updated: Jan 9, 2022

Professional UK book editor reveals a short but fun checklist historical fiction writers can use to triple the fun in the research process!

Some historical writers enjoy the research stage, but others find it tedious, dull, and uncreative, causing them to dive straight into the writing process without any information.

However, if you're writing historical fiction and you want your novel to be authentic, you need to research whether you like it or not...unless you're a genius who knows absolutely everything about a particular time period, historical figure or setting.

I get it, researching can feel like you're revising for an exam, but it really doesn't have to be so mind-numbing.

You may think effective research involves reading a load of educational information in black writing on a white page, but there are plenty of ways to make the research stage fun!

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means that I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you decide to make a purchase through the products and services I recommend. I only recommend things that I truly love and use, so I hope I can recommend something to you that you can love too! :)

1. Watch Period Dramas

One of my favourite things to do is to delve into a good period drama, with Medici, Vikings, and Knightfall being three of my favourites!

You may watch period dramas for fun if you're interested in history, but you could also watch them to collect information for your historical novel.

For example, if you want to write a historical book set in France during the 1600s, maybe consider watching Versailles to learn more about the royals in power, the way of life and the setting.

If you want to write a historical family saga set in a stately home, maybe try Downton Abbey, The Crown or Poldark to gather ideas on social class, archaic language and the clothing.

2. Read Other Historical Novels

It may sound obvious, but one of the best ways to research for your own historical novel is to read a wide variety of historical fiction. Not only will you learn how other authors have written their story, but you may discover new facts that could be useful for yours.

We don't always remember information when we actively revise it from a textbook, but reading it in the pages of a gripping novel often makes it easier. Plus, if it's your own book, you're free to highlight, annotate and bookmark the crucial information so you can return to it later.

However, some writers avoid books in their genre due to the fear of unintentionally copying another author's writing style, but if you're reading with the sole intention of enjoying the story and absorbing new information, you'll likely stick to your own voice.

How to Write a Bestselling Novel eBook

3. Listen to Podcasts or Audiobooks

If you don't have the time to binge period dramas or read a lot of books, you could always listen to podcasts or audiobooks on your way to work or while doing other tasks.

Sometimes, if I'm not in the mood for music, I'll listen to business-related podcasts when I'm out & about to give me new ideas and inspiration, so perhaps you could find ones that focus on history in a fun yet educational way.

And if there's a historical novel you've always wanted to read but never have the time, maybe grab the free trial on Audible and get listening when you're doing other things. You can get through some books within 6-7 hours, so you could finish one of Bernard Cornwell's books in no time!

4. Play Video Games

Of course I'm telling you to play video games - I love them - but seriously, they're a great option if you want to learn more about history in a fun way.

Take the Assassin's Creed video game series for example, there's a game set in Revolutionary America & Russia, Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, and the Viking Period. You could also become a pirate in the Caribbean, which is always great fun!!

Even though there's a stigma around video games with many people believing that only teenage boys play them in their mother's basement, they're an amazing experience for anyone looking for an escape, an eventful few hours or information for their novel.

So, if video games are your thing, consider jumping into one set in a specific era of history!

Copy Editing Services UK

5. Create an Inspiration Board on Pinterest

If you only need a visual guide on elements like clothing, hairstyles, architecture, transport and setting, Pinterest could be a great way to research for your historical novel. The platform gives you access to thousands of photographs, paintings, animations and drawings, so you'll definitely find what you need just by typing in simple keywords.

If you'd rather have physical research you can keep in a notebook or folder, you could always print the images you find and create a mini scrapbook of ideas. Perhaps a section for different areas of research, therefore keeping similar pictures together.

I've done this with my fantasy novel - I needed visual inspiration for my reptilian race to make it easier to describe them, so finding Dungeons & Dragons artwork really helped!

6. Watch Documentaries

Some people find documentaries boring, but others find them fun and interesting to watch. If you love a good documentary, perhaps you could find some that focus on the part of history you want to write about.

However, it's okay if you don't find the right documentary immediately, sometimes it takes a while to find one that engages us. I find it easier to watch documentaries that have a presenter or journalist actually visiting different places and talking about something in front of them, like Simon Reeve, Louis Theroux and Tony Robinson.

If I try to watch a documentary that has someone narrating in the background the entire way through, I switch off, so make sure you find the right format for you.


Thank you for reading to the end of this post, it really means a lot and I always try to produce helpful content for writers like you! :)

If you found it helpful, please like, comment and share so more writers can use the advice!

When you're ready to have your manuscript professionally edited, please get in touch with me here and we can have a chat about how I can best help you.

Here is a list of the book editing services I offer:

  • Developmental/Content Editing

  • Line Editing

  • Copy Editing

  • Proofreading

Speak soon,

Chelsea x



Hey! I'm Chelsea and I'm a professional book editor at Stand Corrected Editing, my independent editorial business in the UK. If you would like to have your manuscript thoroughly edited by myself, please get in touch!

With my book editing and proofreading services, I hope to spread my knowledge and expertise on how to make your novel a success, and be a mentor to others who desperately want to pursue a fruitful career as an author!


bottom of page